Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baby Nuthouse: judge not

All was quiet and peaceful in the bookstore last Thursday afternoon. A mother with two small children in tow searched the computer database for the book she needed, then proceeded to the shelves and found it.

The children were patient while she completed her mission, and she allowed each of them to pick out a book. They excitedly made their selections: a Thomas the Tank Engine title for the preschool-aged boy, and Harold and the Purple Crayon for his little sister. Then they made their way to the register, where the children reached up to place their books on the counter. As they walked out, each child clasping a paperback, everyone in the store was watching with approval.

Just on the other side of the double set of heavy glass doors, things started to deteriorate. Maybe it was the heat, the bright sunshine, or the bustling shoppers passing by.

Most likely it was the display of bargain books, including one in particular, placed at kids-eye-level, with a bright red rocket on the cover.

In an instant, Thomas the Tank Engine was forgotten. “I want that rocket book,” the little boy told his mom.

“You have a new Thomas book,” she reminded him. “You just got it, about two minutes ago. In that bookstore right there. Remember?”

“NO! I want the rocket book!”

“It’s time to go now,” she said. “Let’s go home and read your new book.”

“I want the rocket book! Give me the rocket book! I want it! RIGHT NOW!”

Now the mom had lost control and she seemed uncertain of her next move.

“Fine, I’ll just take your Thomas book back to the store,” she said.

She was obviously bluffing. There was no way she was taking those kids back inside.

Her threat was useless anyway. The boy threw the Thomas book, and then himself, onto the sidewalk. “Rocket book!” he shouted. “Rocket book rocket book ROCKET BOOK ROCKET BOOK ROCKETBOOOOOK!”

Not wanting to be left out, his little sister joined in, lying on the sidewalk a few feet away, kicking her feet and shouting.

The poor mom was totally at a loss now. In order to get to her car she first had to walk through a large, busy parking lot. She stood there awkwardly for a moment, perhaps waiting to see if the situation would improve. It did not.

Somehow she managed to pick up the flailing toddler with one arm while holding the boy’s hand and essentially dragging him through the crosswalk.

The crowd outside the bookstore had a drastically different opinion of this mother.

Who, incidentally, was me.

I’m the calm, collected mother who has it all together, and (much more frequently) I’m also the frazzled mom who has absolutely no control over her offspring.

My children are charming, well-behaved angels who, within moments, can transform into spoiled rotten little brats.

I try to remember this when I see other parents out with their kids. Taking small children out in public is sort of a crapshoot. Sometimes they'll act like angels, other times more like holy terrors. Kids still have a lot to learn about how to behave, and parents still have a lot to learn about how to teach their children to behave. We would all do well to give each other a little grace... and maybe even lend a hand now and then.

I sure could have used one last Thursday.


Maureen Dillie said...

Oh man Ruth! I wish I had been there to help! I'm imagining you guys outside of Borders and just thinking that I could have held Sophie as we walked to the car.

You are so right though about the split personalities of child and mother. I find myself going through the Jekyll and Hyde transformation right along with my children and it feels so embarrassing and a bit powerless. You just have to remember that you aredoing the best you can at any given moment.

Torrie said...

sorry, but this story has me laughing. Not AT you per se, but whenever it happens to someone besides me I see some humor in it. Then I quickly stop laughing because I know my turn is coming...

Firefly mom said...

Ohhh, I so remember those days! I went from a boy who could scream at a pitch that would make your ears bleed to a teenager who can roll his eyes faster than a speeding bullet ;D

Angela said...

this is when I throw myself down on the floor and see if i can kick harder and scream louder than them.
no, not really... but it's what i feel like doing. :)